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Li, Haiyue, Xu, Bin, Zhou, Enhua H., Sunyer, Raimon, Zhang, Yanhang, (2017). Multiscale measurements of the mechanical properties of collagen matrix ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering 3, (11), 2815-2824

The underlying mechanisms by which extracellular matrix (ECM) mechanics influences cell and tissue function remain to be elucidated because the events associated with this process span size scales from tissue to molecular level. Furthermore, ECM has an extremely complex hierarchical 3D structure and the load distribution is highly dependent on the architecture and mechanical properties of ECM. In the present study, the macro- and microscale mechanical properties of collagen gel were studied. Dynamic rheological testing was performed to study the macroscale mechanical properties of collagen gel. The microscale mechanical properties of collagen gel were measured using optical magnetic twisting cytometry (OMTC). Ferromagnetic beads embedded in the matrix were used as mechanical probes. Our study on the multiscale mechanical properties of collage matrix suggests several interesting differences between macro and microscale mechanical properties originated from the scales of measurements. At the macroscopic scale, storage and loss modulus increase with collagen concentrations. Nonaffine collagen fibril structural network deformation plays an important role in determining the macroscopic mechanical properties of the collagen matrix. At the microscopic scale, however, the local mechanical properties are less sensitive to changes in collagen concentration because of the more immediate/direct deformation of collagen fibrils in the OMTC measurements through forces exerted by locally attached ferromagnetic beads. The loss modulus is more affected by the local interstitial fluid environment, leading to a rather dramatic increase in viscosity with frequency, especially at higher frequencies (>10 Hz). A finite element model was developed to study the geometric factors in the OMTC measurements when the collagen matrix was considered to be hyperelastic. Our results show that the geometric factors are dependent on collagen concentration, or the stiffness of matrix, when nonlinear material properties of the matrix are considered, and thus interpretation of the apparent modulus from OMTC measurements should be conducted carefully.

Keywords: Keywords: collagen, Extracellular matrix, Geometric factor, Nonaffine deformation, Optical magnetic twisting cytometry